For Stacie Tover, this is it.
One last hurrah.
One last shot.
One last chance to be named the "fittest woman on Earth."
Ultimately, one last trip to the CrossFit Games.
After all, this year makes eight. Can you even begin to fathom eight trips to the games? The training, the pounding, the commitment...the overall grind that you have to put yourself though?
All the rope climbing, all the weight lifting, all the running and swimming and weighted vests...
"Well, I'm 32...so I'm getting up there in age. There's a lot of things within CrossFit Omaha that I'd like to accomplish, and sometimes, it just gets pushed aside," says Tovar. "Possibly a family maybe in the works. It's just time. I'm exhausted."
And who could blame her? Training six hours a day, on top of owning and operating a small business, sounds pretty tiring to me.
I've been to my share of CrossFit boxes (the industry term for a gym) in my life.
Some are dark. Some are dingy. Some are downright dirty.
Some feel like the kind of spots where strong, confident former high school football stars go to shudder in pain after a workout.
But not CrossFit Omaha, the box that Stacie Tovar both owns and calls her training home.
CrossFit Omaha seems to have taken on the personality of its owner. It's bright, fresh, and alive.
The coach sitting at the front desk greets you win a welcoming smile.
"You must be here to see Stacie!" she says. I reply to the affirmative, and she walks me to the back. I find Tovar with a heavily loaded barbell on a rack, and a giant smile on her face.
After a short conversation, it's not hard to see that she both loves her gym, but also the CrossFit community around Omaha.
"I love our little CrossFit community here in Omaha," she says. I love the vibe. It's what CrossFit is all about- the community, and the vibe and feeling, and we're all in it together."
I can buy that. And I can give you a really good example as to why.
The big question
As a gym owner and elite CrossFit athlete, I asked Stacie a very simple question: Why should anyone that walks in the door of your (or any other) box, want to get involved in CrossFit?
"Why would you not want to get involved??" she says with a laugh.
"We're a community. We're literally all in it together. You're never alone." she says. "You'll be with friends, you'll have fun, there will be music, and you're going to have a good time. And you're really not going to feel like you're working out!"
Plus, as she points out, it's not like everyone does the same workouts she's been grinding through on her journey towards the games. Everything is scalable. If an athlete can't do a movement, they'll find something for you until you can do that particular movement (and she's quick to point out, that yes- you can do it)
Whether you're an experienced athlete that's spent hours in a weight room, or never touched a barbell, CrossFit can work for you.
Now, I'm sure that's a line you would hear from every gym owner in America. Yet, hearing it with such enthusiasm from an athlete that has spent the last eight years at the pinnacle seems to really drive the point home.
"Guess what, I have a 12-year old, and a 65-year old, and I may have 97-year old (at CrossFit Omaha) soon, so if you tell me you can't do it...think again," she says confidently.
With those facts in hand, who am I to argue?
This year marks a change for the CrossFit Games, which will run Aug 3-6.
After spending the past seven years at the Stub Hub Center in the Los Angeles area, and prior to that at the Ranch in Aromas, California, the games will shift to a new venue: The Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
And the games will continue to move each year for at least the next three editions.
As a credit to her dedication and longevity, Tovar is one of just a handful of athletes (four or five, she thinks) that will have competed at all three venues to date.
And while she says after eight years, it's all still CrossFit, there's at least one major shift she's noticed.
"I can't believe some of the numbers these kids, and I say kids because they literally are, that the 20-year olds are throwing up that us 30-year olds have to compete against!" she exclaims. "Your body can only do so much for so long, and I think the recovery aspect is going to become a key factor, which is why I think it may become a late-teens to early 20's sport eventually."
Tovar thinks it will still be a place for elite athletes of all ages at the games level, but with some adjustments. As an example, this year CrossFit introduced a 35-40 year masters division for the first time at the games, and she wouldn't be surprised to eventually see a 30-35 or even 25-30 year old classification. Or maybe weight classes.
"The sky is the limit," she says with a smile. "I think it will be fun to watch in unfold."
In the heart of it all, it can be up to six hours a day for Stacie Tovar.
As she runs down her daily schedule, I get tired just thinking about it.
She starts her day off with a "team meeting" with her husband (an co-CrossFit Omaha owner) Dustin, and is usually out the door by 9:45 at the latest to get her training day started by 10 AM.
Most days, she's finished by 3 PM, and is around for the 4 PM class at CrossFit Omaha.
And as you can imagine, she puts a lot of focus on her diet.
"I eat really clean, I eat really well," she says. "I put a lot of time and energy and effort into the food I prepare and what I put in my body."
Tovar says she doesn't eat sugar very often (no ice cream and cake over the Fourth of July holiday for her), and rarely, if ever, drinks alcohol. At the moment, she's been eating a lot of white rice, sweet potatoes, and some gluten free bread to help keep the energy level high with dense carbohydrates.
She's also staying away from "fattier red meats" like steaks and hamburger right now, and favoring chicken and fish. For fat, it's avocados and olive oil, and occasionally nuts and seeds.
I asked if there will be a big-time party after the games are over with cake and champagne this time around.
"Believe it or not, this month is CrossFit Omaha's 10th anniversary," she says with a chuckle. "We're going to celebrate after the games, which is perfect timing! I'm sure there will be cake and there will be alcohol, and I probably will splurge...just slightly."
Sounds like perfect timing.
As if making the CrossFit Games for eight consecutive years isn't tough enough on its own, I asked Tovar if she has a goal in mind this time around.
"I have yet to see top ten," she replies. "I was super close in 2015, and I would love to see the top ten."
She's also quick to point out that while a top ten finish would be great, the ultimate goal is to come out healthy and to have a ton of fun.
"I really don't have any pressure this year!" she says through a laugh. "It is what it is, I'm out there to have a great time. I am here for the eighth time, and there's two or three athletes that can say they've accomplished that."
Regardless of what Tovar might accomplish this year, its safe to say she's left her mark on the sport.
"I hope people remember me for my accomplishments I've had over the eight years, and not just this year," she says, taking a brief moment to reflect. "That's really my main goal."
At this point, I don't see how anyone could argue.